By Rowen Saille
Walpurgisnacht or the night of Walpurga is the Nordic tradition’s answer to Beltaine. The festival comes from the name of a saint born in Wessex in 710. Also known as Valborg, Walburga, Walpurgis, Wealdburg, and Valderburger, she was alleged to be the niece of Saint Boniface and the daughter of a Saxon prince. She was canonized on May 1, 779 and the Swedish calendar still bears her name for that date.
Pagan tradition associates the Feast of Walpurga or Walpurgisnacht with the fertility traditions celebrated around April 30 th on the modern calendar. Walpurga was honored with the traditional ways of celebrating the new spring: Bonfires, ritual dances, fertility charms and prank-playing. In German folklore, the celebration of Walpurgisnacht is the time when witches meet on Brocken Mountain and to hold revels to the gods and goddesses. In Sweden the young collect the new greens with which to adorn the houses and welcome the growing season.
For the Asatru, Walpurgisnacht is a night of mystery and magic. The lady of magic is Freya and as the Norse goddess of fertility she is particularly appropriate as a focus of rites to celebrate this season. Modern traditions include fertility dances, merriment, and fun during May Day. Freya is often honored in blot (sacrifice or ritual) to insure a fertile growing season and bring good wishes to bear. Walpurgisnacht (or May Day eve) often includes a rite particular to Freya called seidr (pronounced saythe). This holiday along with Winter Nights is a time when the folk look to the seidkona (seid-worker) or a vitki (rune-worker) to get a glimpse into what the year or season will bring.
This season of the year is a perfect time to scry in a fire or work with runes. Bonfires to purify and for luck are lit and danced round or jumped over. It is a time to purify and renew the self. Set up a maypole and dance with your family, friends or spiritual group to tie in wishes for the season. Drumming is an excellent way not only to keep time to dance the Maypole but also to raise the energy and focus the conscious mind.
Foods for celebration: Stews and the first fresh greens of spring are particularly appropriate. The ancients would have used some of the last of stored foodstuffs to create a stew base adding to it the new fresh greens available. “Stone Soup” (where individuals each bring an ingredient to add to the cauldron or stewpot), though also common at Freyfaxi feast, gives an opportunity for a group to gather and add their own ingredients to the soup with their energies for well-wishes. Sharing the “first fruits” imparts the luck of the spring while preserved food stores illustrate the “wealth” and wisdom of the folk for being good stewards and surviving the hard winter months. By eating the stew, the gathered kin internalize the good wishes for all.
Enjoy the Feast of Walburga and Walpurgisnacht. Bring joy to this time of new growth and renewal with your own celebrations, and share these traditions with love ones to bring luck and magic to the season of fertility.